So long, Tony Blair.
An Aurora City Council member is hoping to make a name for himself by attacking labor unions. As April Washington of the Rocky Mountain News explains:
Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier wants voters this November to make it tougher to set up all-union workplaces and to establish Colorado as a right-to-work state.
Late Tuesday, Frazier filed a right-to-work ballot proposal with the state that would ban unionized workplaces from forcing an employee to join the union as condition of employment.
It also would prohibit an employer from deducting union dues or fees from workers’ wages to support the union. The measure would make labor membership voluntary. Frazier could not be reached for comment.
“Right-to-work” is a clever title for legislation that has been passed in other states that is essentially designed to destroy labor unions.
Democrats are unhappy with it. The American public is unhappy with it. And increasingly, top Republicans are growing unhappy with Iraq. As The Washington Post reports:
Key Republican senators, signaling increasing GOP skepticism about President Bush’s strategy in Iraq, have called for a reduction in U.S. forces and launched preemptive efforts to counter a much-awaited administration progress report due in September.
In an unannounced speech on the Senate floor Monday night, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the U.S. military escalation begun in the spring has “very limited” prospects for success. He called on Bush to begin reducing U.S. forces. “We don’t owe the president our unquestioning agreement,” Lugar said.
The harsh judgment from one of the Senate’s most respected foreign-policy voices was a blow to White House efforts to boost flagging support for its war policy, and opened the door to defections by other Republicans who have supported the administration despite increasing private doubts.
Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Bush yesterday urging the president to develop “a comprehensive plan for our country’s gradual military disengagement” from Iraq. “I am also concerned that we are running out of time,” he wrote.
Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, praised Lugar’s statement as “an important and sincere contribution” to the Iraq debate.
Republican skepticism has grown steadily, if subtly, since the Senate began debating the war in February.
One lawmaker who has changed his tone is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). Earlier this year, McConnell helped block from a vote even a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop increase. Now, he views a change in course as a given. “I anticipate that we’ll probably be going in a different direction in some way in Iraq” in September, McConnell told reporters earlier this month. “And it’ll be interesting to see what the administration chooses to do.”
Indeed, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill had been hoping to stave off further defections until after a report on military and political conditions in Iraq is delivered by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker in September. However, some in the GOP fear that the White House is stalling, hoping to delay any shift in U.S. strategy until the fall. A major test will come next month, when the Senate considers a series of withdrawal-related amendments to the defense authorization bill — and Republicans such as Lugar and Voinovich will have to officially break ranks or not.
At least Bush still has Dick Cheney on his side.
Two Colorado Republicans have proposed creating a trust fund for money from oil and gas leases on the Roan Plateau. As Mike Saccone and Bobby Magill of The Grand Junction Sentinel report:
Two Western Slope state lawmakers want to use federal mineral-lease revenues from Roan Plateau leasing to create a permanent account to pay for higher education and impacts from energy development.
Sen. Josh Penry, R-Fruita, and Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, said Tuesday their proposed permanent fund would provide interest revenues for two of the state and region’s growing needs long after all the Roan Plateau’s natural gas has been tapped.
“It’s a potentially enormous windfall that the state should spend taking the long view,” Penry said. “No matter what happens on the Roan … it’s an acknowledgement that these natural gas receipts will stop flowing to local government.”
He said the trust fund would accumulate “several hundred million (dollars) or hopefully a billion or two,” with a 7 or 8 percent interest rate, creating a permanent revenue stream of between $70 million and $80 million annually.
Regardless whether the Roan Plateau leasing nets the state $1 billion or far less than that, Penry said, the state needs to use the revenues derived from the plateau’s leasing bonuses and ongoing mineral extraction to save for the future.
“No matter what happens on the Roan, we should do this,” he said. “We should create permanent funds.”
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association projected the Bureau of Land Management’s leasing of the roughly 50,000 acres, which were opened up under a decision issued earlier this month, could spark a “windfall” of at least $500 million in leasing bonus revenues prior to any development.
Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert, who along with the Rifle City Council has long opposed drilling the Roan Plateau, said it’s premature to create a trust fund until the state’s blue ribbon task force has finished analyzing severance tax and federal mineral leasing revenues.
Congressman John Salazar, meanwhile, is proposing amendments to the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill to slow down plans for oil and gas leasing on the Roan.
A deputy to ex-Interior Secretary Gale Norton (who is herself a former Colorado Attorney General) was ordered sent to prison yesterday. As The Washington Post reports:
A federal judge rejected the tearful pleas of the former second-ranking official in the Interior Department yesterday and sentenced him to 10 months in prison for a felony conviction of obstructing a Senate investigation into corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
“You are not above the law,” U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle told former deputy interior secretary J. Steven Griles as he asked for forgiveness.
Griles pleaded guilty in March to lying to the Senate about his relationship with Abramoff. In the plea agreement, prosecutors recommended a sentence of five months of house arrest and five months in prison.
But Huvelle imposed a sterner penalty of 10 months in prison and a $30,000 fine. She said she wanted to send a message to deter wrongdoing by high-ranking government officials. Defense attorneys had asked for three months of home detention, community service and a “reasonable fine.”
Griles, 59, the highest-ranking federal official convicted in the Abramoff scandal, apologized for his actions and cited 24 years of public service. “This has been the most difficult time,” Griles said, pausing to break down in tears, “in my life. My guilty plea has brought me great shame and embarrassment. I have lost my business, my income and, most importantly, my reputation.”…
…Griles, who is not cooperating with the federal investigation, was introduced to the now-convicted lobbyist by a girlfriend who ran an advocacy group co-founded by former interior secretary Gale Norton and financed by Abramoff’s Indian tribal clients.
The government contended that Abramoff thought that if he and his tribal clients contributed money to the group, then he would gain special access to Griles through the girlfriend, Italia Federici.
Prison might not be all bad. Look at all the free publicity it got for Paris Hilton.
It may soon get more expensive to attend the University of Colorado. As Vimal Patel of The Denver Post reports:
Tuition would spike about 14 percent – or $664 per year – for in-state University of Colorado at Boulder students under a proposal being considered by CU regents.
Resident students would pay $5,218 per year under the plan, which could be approved Thursday. The proposal also calls for a $724 increase for the average full-time, in-state student at the Denver campus, and $285 at the Colorado Springs campus.
“We have to do this to provide a role that is very significant to the state,” said Robert Moore, CU’s vice president of budget and finance. He said the budget is the healthiest since 2002, when cuts sliced about $35 million from state funding.
Tuition for new out-of-state students would rise $1,130 a year, or 5 percent, at the Boulder campus and 5 percent at the Denver campus. There would be no change in Colorado Springs. Tuition rates would be frozen for current out-of-state students.
The university’s total budget would be $2.2 billion, or an increase in revenue of 6.5 percent.
The proposal would increase financial aid at CU-Boulder by 40 percent, in addition to meeting increases in utilities costs and staff salaries.
“We embraced a 10-year plan back to financial stability,” said David Skaggs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. “This year is a good first step along the way.”
Speaking of colleges, whatever happened to Barnes Business College?
Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey could be in hot water over his handling of a case that was ended when a former Denver City Attorney committed suicide last week. As the Rocky Mountain News reports:
Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey could face a formal grievance over his handling of the prosecution of former judge and Denver City Attorney Larry Manzanares.
The state agency that regulates the conduct of Colorado lawyers confirmed it received “multiple inquiries” this week about how to file an ethical grievance against Storey.
Critics and friends of Manzanares have suggested Storey, who was a special prosecutor on the Manzanares case, was overzealous and should not have held a news conference announcing the criminal charges against Manzanares, should not have released a lengthy arrest affidavit and should not have revealed that pornography was found on the computer Manzanares was accused of stealing.
A new voter choice task force is meeting today. According to a press release from the House Democrats:
Members of the Voter Choice Task Force will hold their first meeting [today]. Chaired by Representative John Kefalas (D-Larimer), the task force has 11 Democratic, Republican, third party, and non-partisan members.
The objective is to study “Advanced Voting Methods” including those which allow a voter to indicate a preference for more than one candidate. The Task Force will be reviewing advanced voting methods that promote majority rule as a fundamental principle of representative democracy. Based on the findings, legislation will be considered for the 2008 session.
The meeting is at 1:30 p.m. in House Committee Room 0109 at the State Capitol.